SEO September 17, 2020

How important is site speed for SEO?

Stephen @StephenN

I know site speed is import. But just how much. Should I speed a week improving the speed or adding more content ?

I have some documentation pages which are written using gitbook which has been easy to get going. But the lighthouse score is bad, getting ~30 for performance on mobile. Chrome first load is ~0.5 seconds, 6 seconds to finish.

I could convert it to a jekyll static site with markdown and github pages like my blog. Which is all loaded in ~0.2 seconds and scores >95.

It seems like annoying work to do. As an engineer I'll be proud of how much faster it is, but as a founder I know customers don't care, at least consciously. But most of my new visitors do come from search.

Im interested in your thoughts, thanks.

  1. 3

    When Google measures page speed for the purpose of ranking content it generally separates pages into two categories: really good or pretty bad.

    Just make sure pages are fast enough to fit into the “really good” category.

  2. 2

    Some decent info already here however I do want to add a correction: Google announced starting in 2021 they will be paying attention to site speed/user experience as a ranking factor. Moz ran a good analysis of Google's announcement here for more info.

    As for how much weight speed factors into rank, is it - hard to say, there are 200+ ranking factors. As long as your site is not excessively slow I think you are fine. Tools like PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse in Chrome should give you a good sense of how well your site is loading and what you should prioritize in fixing it.

  3. 2

    It's important but it's usually overrated

    Just make sure Site Speed is decent enough that it loads within a reasonable time frame but not super slow till the point where the visitors just leaves due to frustration

    I would say focus on Content

    Source: I own a blog for 3 years

    1. 1

      Thanks. Yea I'll focus on content more for a while. It'll be easier to edit in gitbook anyway.

  4. 2

    It's not that important, but you already know how to implement your Blog as Static Sites.
    Seems like 1-2 hours work and than it's definitely worth it. As long it's not overcomplicated just do it :)

    1. 1

      Haha, I wish it were 1-2 hours of work. It'll take me that long just to pick the jekyll theme :)

  5. 2

    I don't believe that SEO thing anymore. My website is slow to load, not having any homepage.. never had a blog, I never bothered to make it SEO friendly. But in Google search it still in good position. It too more time but it is all natural, organic without any SEO effort.

  6. 2

    Content always goes first. Content is going to bring you visitors, not loading speed. It's the same if you had a shop and you were wondering if making the doors X color will matter when there are not products in store.

    Site speed only needs to be decent and I would not focus on that at the start.

    It will become much more important later, but for now, focus on content.

  7. 2

    From what I've read, it's not that of a factor as long as your site is not in the bottom 20% percentile.

  8. 2

    Look at the customers first, even google SERPS would respond to that more, by paramters like bouce rates and others they account for...

    Like honestly IH is terribly slow on mobile, if the content wasn't there I wouldn't visit it.

    It's sometimes hard to tell if first render, full load or something else is important in your case, if you have defered scripts that don't affect the immidate user exprience it's fine.
    You should care about time to interact.
    And do look at lets say the buttom 30% or 10% of your users, with slower connections, older mobile devices etc. (assuming you can get the data easily...)

    There are many many slow sites, wp sites tend to take 1-3s to load .

    But the biggest thing is to consider your actual customers and not what you have as a setup... depending on niche and such, your customers might have more or less advanced tech...

    Look at one of the service like yslow and look what the low handing fruit are, like can you just add a CDN for the static content? optimise an image on the home page? remove or defer some script on the landing pages? fix a DNS redirect/url rewrite that makes everycall double load? if you never looked at it, there is probably an hour/day there for 60% speed boost. If you've already done some work, don't overdue the last 10%-15% to reduce 0.3 to 0.26 sec.

    if I try to put speed numbers, to first interact:
    10+sec your crazy I aint loading this again, I might have closed before I know what this is
    5 sec - I'm irritated
    1-3sec - stupid wp, why did we not make things fast by default , people know it's slow
    <1 sec - you care a little bit, I'm 10% similing inside
    300ms - you know what your doing, most people would think that was as fast as it should be
    50ms - your one of these tech gods google/amazon...

    (1) First intract mean unblocked fully/mostly rendered (as far as a normal user can see), can scroll and click stuff and it's working (it might load more animations or tool tips or other features in the background that can't be immidatly used, a bad example is how long it takes for the user tooltip to work in IH... or some auto complete data on sites with search on top as a major funciton..)

    Maybe the gist should be if you care about user conversions and SERPS get under 1sec or 800ms for some button percentile of users.

  9. 1


    If your site loads faster and content sucks, Google won't rank you anyway. Why can't you focus on the content and start driving traffic. Also it's completely dependent upon the page size. If the page size is big and it will be loading slow, Google knows it too. We have pages that loads slow(3-4seconds) but still ranks higher. For Some keywords we are even ranking higher than our competitors like hubspot. Though our domain authority for our site is much lesser, content we have on the given topic is great in our site. Also we have good social.signals(upvotes) for quora answering and medium claps. Focus heavily on content and social signals.

  10. 1

    In my experience it's super important – both from a pure rankings perspective but almost more importantly as a usability thing. "Speed is a feature", as they say.

    It's curious that Chrome takes 6 seconds to load the page completely, as I thought Gitbook was a SSG for documentation – is there something relatively easy to fix going on there? It probably doesn't make sense to do a big migration just for the purposes of site speed if you're still relatively early on.

  11. 1

    Hey Stephen, I do SEO as my day job and consequently have quite a bit of experience optimising speed for the sites I work on. I would advise that you do look to improve your load speed as by the sounds of the metrics above Google will consider you not to be fast enough. I would caveat that by saying if the documentation you're currently hosting on gitbook is not a huge % of both your # of pages and pageviews then the priority is lessened.

    Moving to a SSG like Jekyll is probably a good idea from a futureproofing perspective. Google have relatively recently announced a scoring framework called Web Vitals which means they are now going to consider both lab and real user metrics as part of how they score your site. If you have a significant % of users on under-performing pages then your other pages may be held back (I use the word may as it's still not really known how domain level aggregation will affect page level performance).

    Also, it may be that your site is currently being filtered or held back in mobile results due to it's poor performance; that's one of the nice things about improving load speed you tend to see an all ships rise kind of benefit.

    Lastly, I'd disagree with the statement that "...customers don't care", it may not be that they care enough to complain but fast sites get more conversions and the reason why is because they don't have the friction of waiting.

    Give me a shout if I can help any further.

  12. 1

    Honestly speed matters more every year. If you have fast speed, SSL, and good design for mobile users you will outrank similar sites if no other factors really.

    For example you have a car dealer in New York, do you think the heavy site that is shared hosting in Los Angeles will rank higher or the lightweight site hosted in the Nginx cloud server in New York will rank higher, if other factors similar?

    This is the purpose of my new poll:

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